New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp

One of my favorite parts of moving to the South last year is that I can now dive head-first into a new food culture. For example, take today’s New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp. A local friend asked me if I had tried “BBQ Shrimp” yet; I immediately thought of shrimp doused in smokey-sweet KC-style barbecue sauce, which sounded a bit weird (but not altogether terrible, honestly). My friend then explained that BBQ Shrimp here in the South is not like your typical barbecue experience. Instead, it’s a crispy shrimp dish flavored with hot sauce, butter, and rosemary, typically served as an appetizer.

Barbecue Shrimp was first popularized by Pascal’s Manale Restaurant in New Orleans during the 1950s. This dish has an “old timey” feel to it today, mostly because of its liberal use of Worcestershire sauce (made famous by Lea & Perrins back in the 1830s). The end result is a little tangy, a bit spicy, and very robust in flavor. One thing I really appreciate about this dish is that it lets the shrimp take center stage. Moreover, it’s relatively cheap to throw together once you get your hands on some high-quality shrimp (especially when you consider the fact that this dish will set you back $26 at the original restaurant!). Head-on shrimp is traditionally used, but I won’t tell on you if you use shelled shrimp.

To capture the flavor of an authentic NOLA-style BBQ shrimp, you’ll want to use the four ingredients above, plus some beer and fresh rosemary (more on that later). Let’s talk about a few of these ingredients for a second before moving on:

Crystal hot sauce is from Louisiana and boasts only three ingredients: aged cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, and salt. While I enjoy the distinct taste of Tabasco most of the time, Crystal works well in this recipe because it is milder (which means you can use more of it without cranking up the heat). Crystal is also the traditional hot sauce used in making this dish, so it all works out.

Note that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire has a fairly clean ingredients list: distilled white vinegar, molasses, water, sugar, onions, anchovies, salt, garlic, cloves, tamarind extract, natural flavorings, chili pepper extract. According to their website, this product is also gluten-free. I’m personally okay with minimal amounts of molasses and sugar in recipes, but if you are avoiding sugar altogether, use a combination of 1 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 tsp tomato paste as an appropriate substitution. The whole “natural flavorings” ingredient thing could be anyone’s guess, so again, if you have food sensitivities use the substitution above. There are organic/natural versions of Worcestershire sauce available, but to be honest, many of them have more dubious ingredients (wheat, corn, soy, xantham gum, and more) than what’s listed on the Lea & Perrins bottle, so I stick with the original.

There are many cajun/creole seasonings out there. In terms of pre-made seasonings, I like the “Slap Ya Mamma” white pepper blend (it’s not as spicy as their original blend). I also have a mild creole seasoning recipe listed here.

New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet friendly)

  • Servings: 4 as an appetizer
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Barbecue sauce:
1 cup gluten-free beer (or 1/2 cup each hard cider and white wine)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Crystal hot sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp creole powder (recipe here)
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 drops liquid smoke

2 tbsp ghee
1 lb head-on shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and black pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
2 tbsp cold butter, cut into four squares
1 small handful fresh parsley, chopped

1. Combine the barbecue sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. Pat the shrimp dry with some paper towels. In a cast iron skillet, warm the ghee over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp to the skillet. Pan-fry until crispy but before completely pink and curled, about 2 minutes per side, then remove the shrimp and set it aside.

3. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden brown, about 30 seconds, then add the barbecue sauce. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Return the shrimp to the skillet then reduce heat to medium. Sauté and toss until the shrimp is pink and curled, about 2 minutes, being careful not to overcook the shrimp. Remove from heat then stir in the cold butter cubes, stirring until incorporated. Garnish with parsley and serve.

** In terms of gluten-free beer, I prefer Omission‘s lager. The original recipes call for Abita amber beer, so any amber or lager should do well in this recipe. If you can’t find a good gluten-free beer, a combination of hard cider and white wine will work just fine.

** This dish is typically served with crusty bread, but my recipe for Brazilian Cheese Buns (Pão de Queijo) from waaaay back in 2012 will work just as well! You can even form them into little loaves if you’d like (but don’t worry, the dish is still very excellent without bread).

24 thoughts on “New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp

  1. The New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp I grew up eating were just SWIMMING in butter. Absolutely delicious, but not something I’m inclined to recreate these days, so I’m excited give your recipe a spin. It sounds wonderful, and I can’t wait to try it with some of the Gulf shrimp I have in my freezer.

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  2. Great input on the ingredients in Lea & Perrins. I agree with you. I’ve only used theirs or made my own from scratch (which is pretty darn good, actually).

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  3. We had this for dinner tonight. It was delicious. I used half wine and half stock since I am allergic to apples. I did add a little splash of apple cider vinegar. For some reason I can tolerate that. It was fabulous. The sauce emulsified beautifully. We had roasted sweet potato wedges with it, and they were great in the sauce too!

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